Posts Tagged ‘Long Beach’

Coconut 5 RM, 200 logged dives

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

There is a tradition in the diving community to celebrate dive number one hundred by diving naked. My hundredth dive was my instructor exam, so it was quite out of the question to let it all hang out… Since I didn’t do my hundredth dive naked, the idea was to do it for number two hundred instead, and that dive was this afternoon. I had two divers with me, Justin was doing his fourth and final Open Water dive for his course, and his friend Bryce joined us for a fun dive. When we arrived at the dive site this afternoon, and I saw that there were no other boats at the site, I asked the boys what their thoughts on nudity were, and whether they were easily offended… 😛 Being quite liberal and easy-going guys, they thought it sounded like good, clean fun. We started the dive with Justin doing his final skill practice. When we headed out for a tour of the dive site, I took off my board shorts, and spent the next 45 minutes diving in my birthday suit. At the safety stop at the end of the dive I put my shorts back on, and we ascended to the surface as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. 😛 Although it was a bit strange to dive naked with two other people who were not, it was an altogether liberating feeling, and an experience I wouldn’t mind repeating in a somewhat more private setting.

The coconut tree that grows up through the dive deck where we de-kit and rinse our equipment has been heavily laden with coconuts lately, and a few days ago one fell down as we, the Sunlight staff, were sitting around having a cold after-work brew, and crushed Mike’s can that sat right next to him… It became abundantly clear that the heavy nuts needed to be taken down before someone gut hurt or killed, and today we finally managed to convince Nick, one of the staff at Moonlight, to brave the tall trunk and the stinging ants that live in the top of the palm tree. Legend that he is, Nick spent the better part of an hour perched in the tree top with a cleaver, cutting down the bunches of coconuts and lowering them down with a rope. I’ve drunk my fill, and eaten so much coconut that it feels like it’s going to come out my ears, and that was just from one nut! We’ve probably got over fifty liters of coconut juice, and several kilos of delicious coconut flesh, so Nick, ever the businessman, has put up a cardboard sign on the huge pile of nuts on the deck:

COCONUT RM 5!

Patience, Prayer and Penicillin heal all wounds…

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

… even tropical ulcers.

I had a visit from my cousin ages ago, and we had a brilliant time together. It was magnificent to finally be able to show someone from home what I’m always nagging about… Since then, I have also been able to show my sister Anne Malene and her boyfriend Øyvin, and two of my classmates from primary school and junior high, Gunn Ragnhild and Valdis. I went scuba diving with all of them,  but Anne Malene and Øyvin had to wait for my heel to heal before I could teach them to dive.

I got a tiny little scratch on the back of my right heel about a month ago, so small that I didn’t notice it before it started to get red. It soon started hurting, and then my foot swelled up like a balloon. The assumption when I got to the clinic in the fishermen’s village on Perhentian was that I had contracted a tropical ulcer, and I was put on broad spectrum antibiotics. It still took a good week and a half before I was off the crutches and back in the water, and it still has not healed completely, although it looks very nice.

Seeing my friends from way back when was also really cool. We reminisced about the olden days (about 20 to 14 years ago), and caught up on more current events. I got to refresh old diving skills with Gunn Ragnhild, while Valdis got her first taste of scuba diving.

Days of sun, sea and salt water still have not gotten old, I enjoy every bit of it. I even have one more friend lined up to come here soon, to finally finish a diving course, after having started it several times with several people who for one reason or another had to back out. 😀 If anyone else wants to come and learn to dive, just give me a holler, and I’ll set you up! 🙂

In other news, I have crossed over to SDI, and now teach divers through that organization as well as PADI.  My SDI certification cards and teaching material arrived today, but my PADI cards that were supposed to be sent to Blue Season Bali, where I finished my course in the beginning of April still haven’t showed up… The course director there is now on the case, and is trying to get PADI to send me the cards here.

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We’re open for business!

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

It’s been waaaay too long since my last update, but we’re now finally up and running. Most of my time in the weeks since I wrote last were spent getting things ready, but it has now all paid off.  🙂 The new deck is beautiful, compressor works, we’ve got the staff we need, and we’re ready to go in the water! Our webpage is also up and running, although it needs a bit more work. Check it out at sunlightdivers.com!

Whenever I’ve not been working, I’ve been hanging around not doing much of anything… We got one more employee a couple of weeks ago, Becky from England, and yesterday Mike came over from the Perhentian Besar to be our manager, like last year. As I’ve been writing this we also got our first customer. 🙂 Now I’m REALLY looking forward to finally getting in the water and start teaching.

I don’t know how often I’ll be writing while I’m here, because after the novelty wears off, it’s limited how interesting it will be to hear about my days: get up, eat, dive,  dive, eat, dive, dive, eat, socialize, sleep,  get up, and so forth and so on… However, I’ll go a little bit more in detail about the place here.

I live just upstairs, above the dive shop, so it’s not really a long commute to the office, in fact the office is closer than the toilet and shower… The toilets are the western “chair” type, not squatters, but they have no flush, instead you flush them with a scoop that’s placed in a bucket of water next to it. The showers have quite limited water pressure, and only cold water. Hot water is not something I really need, as the climate here is warm enough that only modesty and social norms create the need to wear anything at all. It is nice to have a hot shower every once in a while, though, because you feel a lot cleaner after a hot shower than a cold one. Thus, when I met a couple of girls from Bryne (near Stavanger in Norway) a few weeks ago and found out they were staying in the fancy Bubu Hotel, I made sure to borrow their shower before they left…

My meals are normally taken in Moonlight restaurant, which is just next to the shop, in the same building. The food is good, but I miss not being able to cook my own food. What I miss the most in the way of food, however, is Sørlandschips, the bes potato crisps ever… If anyone from Sørlandschips or their owners, Valora Trade Norway reads this, please send me a crate of Sørlandschips with sea salt! 😀

I work from 8am to 6pm, and we have a rotation between us deciding who gets up to open up shop at 7:30, and who closes up at 8pm. After a late dinner, I sometimes head up the beach to the shops for necessities, or the bars for a beer and socializing. Last night I spent some time with a cool group of people, a girl from Arizona travelling with her roommates gay lover, two girls from Brighton, two Swedish brothers and a couple from Norway, one of whom used to live across the street from my old house in Misjonsvegen, the other one in Våland! Small world…

My room above the shop is quite simple, but I have what I need: a bed, a fan, a mosquito net, a bookshelf and some pegs to hang my clothes from.

The climate here feels like what I was made for: temperatures during the day normally peak out between 32 an 35 degrees, and sink to 28-29 during the night, while the water is a constant 30 degrees. Most days are sunny with a bit of haze because of evaporation from the sea, and every once in a while we have a day or two of strong winds, torrential downpour and thunder and lightning. The greatest hazard around here are falling coconuts, but we also have some monkeys that can bite if teased (never even saw one) scorpions (never saw any of those either) and the occasional python. The mosquitoes here don’t carry malaria, but they are quite annoying around dawn and dusk.

Okay, now you know a bit about my life here. The everyday life sets in here too after a while, but then I look out at the white beach and the blue sea, consider the fact that I COULD be spending my days in some dreary office, and I’m fine again.  😉

Return to Paradise

Friday, April 16th, 2010

I’ve been nagging about this in my last three posts, but just to confirm it: I’m back in the PERHENTIANS! I came on the first boat this morning, and I’ve settled in above the dive shop, in one of the three rooms upstairs. Three of the people who were here with Sunlight last year were already living there when I arrived, Wan, his brother and another fellow I haven’t met before are sharing one room, Emma and Bob are sharing another.

On my way here from Bali, I had two nights  (or rather one and a half) in Kuala Lumpur. My plane landed at twenty past midnight, and by the time I found a guest house, Reggae, it was 2 am. On the first floor of Reggae Guest House was Reggae night club, but luckily they turned off the music by the time I turned in a little before 3. It was a little expensive (and a lot loud…) so I moved the next morning, down the street and out of earshot, to Wheelers guest house. The price was about half, but it was definately not worth it, as it turned out the place had bed bugs. 🙁 My suggestion: never ever stay in Wheelers guest house in KL.  I had a nice day before, though, as I met up with Ali and Sundar again, same as last time I was in KL. We spent the day around Bukit Bintang where Ali lives, and went out to eat at an Irish pub.  (the Beef and Guinness Pie at Finnegan’s is brilliant!)

Yesterday my flight from KL to Kota Bharu was delayed, so I didn’t make it to Kuala Besut in time for the last boat and had to spend the night.

I went over to Panorama today, where Emma is working as a divemaster this season. She was out diving, so I was just hangin’ around until she came back. When she arrived, I was sitting with my back turned, behind a one of the pillars supporting the deck above, and one of the other Swedish girls there told Emma in a serious voice that some very weird guy had been asking for her. Her expression of utter bewilderment turning to recognition as I peeked around the pillar was priceless!

There seems to be a little challenge to overcome before I can get started in setting up here, but I hope it’s nothing big. Sunlight has three years left on the lease of the place, but there are some details of the agreement we need to go over with the owners of Moonlight and the owners of Sunlight divers, and then the real work sets in. 🙂 I am itching to get started, so I hope it won’t take too long. I’m waiting to hear from Richard before I start contacting the people that need to be involved, don’t want to step on any toes and blow up possible deals in my first days here… 😉 It feels good to be back, though, and I do hope the good feeling about working out a nice deal here will prove to be right!

Farewell Perhentians and Sunlight Divers

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Uncle Travelling Gjerulf will travel once again! I have lived in Moonlight Chalets on Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil for two months and ten days, but tomorrow morning I head out to Taman Negara. The boat leaves the island at eight, and my bus from Kuala Besut to Taman Negara leaves at ten, and if we keep to the schedule I’ll arrive around four pm. That means that most of my birthday will be spent travelling, but that is only fitting. 🙂 I haven’t decided how long I’ll be staying in Taman Negara, but I’d like to do a proper jungle trek, so possibly a week. After that I head out to Kuala Lumpur.

As for the the snorkel test, I survived, although my rib came out the other end a little worse for wear… The first thing we had to do was get dressed up in clothes that were supplied by the instructors. We then had a quiz about obscure diving knowledge, where for every question not answered, or answered wrong, we’d have a shot of monkey juice. (Orang Utan, a local fortified wine) Then came some charades where the three of us were miming different fish, and competing against everyone else, with the punishment for us if the others guessed it first being another shot of the monkey. This was followed by an obstacle course on the beach, and finally the snorkelling itself. The mix was evil, but Rich spared us his home brew, so we all survived. The rib, which I’ve kept bruising when it’s just about healed, bruised up in the end of the obstacle course, where we had to wrestle our way past the instructors to get to the finish line… 😛

I love the island, and the crew here, so I’ll be back!

Seven hours to get cash from the ATM

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I am feeling more and more as a part of the staff here at Sunlight, and that feeling was especially strong yesterday. I ran out of cash a while ago, and while I can write everything on my tab at Moonlight, where I’m staying, I don’t have a tab anywhere else yet. Eventually I had to go get some cash, and the island I’m living on is remote enough to not have a single ATM. There’s one place where you can get some cash, but they charge 10 percent for the service, just because they can. 😉 In order to get my Divemaster license, I also needed to have a physician’s signature on a paper that says I’m fit for diving, so I really needed to take a trip to the mainland.

Yesterday I organized to not assist any dives, and off I went at eight a.m. First I have to take a taxiboat out to the speedboat, and then the speedboat to Kuala Besut on the mainland. At the jetty in Kuala Besut I found a taxi that could take me the last fifteen kilometers to Jerteh, which is the closest place with an ATM… I had my own cards to withdraw money from, and a handful of other cards from other people working here, so that when I was done, I had about 15 000 NOK in my bag. With the shopping I had to do, my visit to the doctor, and mailing the camera I’ve been using, and which has stopped working, back to Norway, I wasn’t back on Long Beach till three pm.

But, returning to the reason I started writing about this, feeling part of the community here; when I was going to get the boat back out to the island, I didn’t buy a ticket, and when I was stopped and asked for my National Park pass, I just said that I was working at Sunlight, and they waved me past. 😀 On the boat I paid the “local price” directly to the captain, instead of the more expensive tourist ticket at the ticket office. On the boat I also sat with the crew, and helped out a bit with loading and stuff. It was a bit weird, but a good feeling of belonging anyway 🙂

A more average day on the island starts at a little before eight, because the shop opens at eight. Just about then the first boat from the mainland comes in as well, so people start arriving. It’s quite laidback around here, so the things that need to be done in the morning are just done as people kinda feel like it. There’s sweeping sand off the floors, putting out buckets for people to wash the sand off their feet when they come in off the beach, and emptying, cleaning and refilling the pools that are used for washing the salt off masks, snorkels, fins, regulators, BCDs and computers after every dive. Then during the day, I study dive theory whenever I’m not out assisting on a dive. The shop closes at seven, and in the evenings, I spend time with students and staff, or after a day with too many dives, just lay vegetating in front of the TV in the “lounge.”

As you might see, the time for writing blog updates is limited, and even if I did have time they would probably be more of a dive log than a travel log. 😉

Divemaster Trainee Gone Native

Monday, July 13th, 2009

On Wednesday I went for my first two dives here at the Perhentians. The first dive was a wreck dive, an old freighter they call the Sugar Wreck. It lies on it’s side at around 19 meters, so that the shallowest side of it is on about seven meters. When we arrived at the divesite, I looked over the side of the boat, and I could see all the way to the bottom! The divemaster and instructor that was with us said that it was the best visibility they’d ever seen on that divesite, 20-25 meters. We went down at the stern, made our way up to the prow, and entered one of the cargo bays. We swam through to the aft cargo bay, and returned along the deck. The dive finished off along the upper hull, before we surfaced again at the stern. The whole wreck was covered in soft corals, and we saw bamboo sharks, great barracudas, squids, giant blowfish, scorpion fish, and lots of other cool critters. The second divesite they call by the codename of T3, and it consists of a jumble of massive boulders with lots of swim-throughs. I saw nudibranches there for the first time in my life, and they are perhaps the fanciest things I’ve seen so far, little brightly coloured slugs with a knobbly surface. Google it!

Thursday I decided to go exploring the island, and I headed out after a late breakfast. I went north, up to a couple of windmills, and found out there was also a solar power plant. Where the electricity goes is beyond me, though, because everyone is running diesel generators for power… I continued down the other side, to a small beach that would’ve been nice if it weren’t for the fact that it was obviously used as a docking point when the powerplant was built, and has not been properly restored. At the northernmost beach on the island I found no other people, however, and lay there relaxing with my book for a while. I continued exploring, but by then my feet were sore from wearing shoes, so I carried my shoes in my hands the rest of the day. I haven’t worn shoes for so long  that it hurts really fast…

On Friday, Helena arrived from Koh Phi Phi when I had finished my late breakfast. That day we celebrated Richard’s birthday, he’s one of the guys who works here. I tasted the local rum, Orang-Utan, which goes by the fitting nick name Monkey Piss.

Yesterday Helena and I went over to Coral Bay, and continued north along the shore to go snorkeling. The sea was rather choppy, and there was so much sand suspended in the water that visibility was less than two meters. We gave up after a couple of minutes, and spent the day on land instead.

This morning Helena went diving, and I went to tell Sonny, the owner, that I’ve decided to stay. I checked the balance on my account first, to verify that the money the tax collector’s office owed me for last year had arrived and I could afford the course. I am now officially a Divemaster Trainee! I calculated that If I don’t get a job I probably have to go back to Norway in about three months, close enough to be called exactly one year from the time I left. I hope to be able to stretch the money, though, so I can get to Australia and get work before I run too low on funds. If I manage to get a job here in the Perhentians after I finish my divemaster, I can pretty much stay until my student loan downpayments have eaten up my budget, before I head out, but I won’t make enough to cover the downpayments as well, for that I need a proper job in a richer country.

My beach towel disappeared from the balcony the other day, so yesterday I bought a Sarung to replace it. The Sarung is the local traditional outfit for men, basically a big piece of cloth with the short ends sewn together so it forms a big tube, which is wrapped tightly around the body under the arms and rolled down to the waist so it fits kind of like a skirt. I wore it today, and got appreciative nods and comments from Malaysian men wearing the same garment. When I got over to Coral Bay to speak to Sonny, she exclaimed before I had time to say anything, “Jerry’s staying! He’s gone native on us already!”

Perhentian Islands in Malaysia

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

July 6
When I woke up yesterday morning, it felt as if I was in the middle of an earthquake… When the next flash and boom came a few seconds later, I realized it had been a clap of thunder, but it had been so loud it rattled the doors and windows in my room! The rain came shortly after, and lasted until late afternoon, so I spent the day doing some reading, and when I’d finished Anna Karenina I went to a bookshop and sold it, and bought The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Eon. I don’t often read sci-fi, but Eon is pretty cool. It’s written in ’86, and set in 2010, so the setting is a bit odd. 🙂 The Soviet Union is still going strong, and so is East Germany, and the much dreaded nuclear war that we were all afraid of in the late eighties had happened in 93!

In the afternoon Helena came over from Tim’s, and told me he was finally starting his tattoo. We had dinner, and then headed over to watch Tim having pain inflicted on his shoulder blades with a foot long stick of bamboo. 😉 On our way there we met a couple of Swedes from Piteå, that we’d been talking to a few days ago, and agreed to meet up with them at the Reggae Bar after we’d been to offer Tim some moral support. We spent the night partly at the Reggae, and partly at the tattoo parlour, until I had to head to bed. I was getting up at seven thirty, so I needed my beauty sleep. 😛

This morning Helena woke me up at seven twenty, I packed, and we had breakfast at Garlic, where I’ve had the greater part of my breakfasts on the Island. She followed me to the boat, and we said bye and see you later. I’m going to write her an email once I get onto the Perhentians, and tell her where I’m at, so she can come meet me in a few days.

The Piteå guys were also on the same boat, but they were headed to Koh Samui, and then Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party. I got in a minibus in Krabi, and was taken to Had Yai, where I changed into an older minibus with less leg room and without aircon, but I was happy, because they weren’t playing insanely loud concert videos with Thai music… 😮  I got to Sungai Golok on the border around seven thirty, left Thailand and entered Malaysia very easily. As I came out of the immigration office, I spotted three people just entering, and fingers crossed, I was hoping they were going to Kuala Besut as well. It turned out they, Dean, Rachel and Nathan, had in fact also come from Phi Phi today, and were also headed to Pulau Perhentian, so we’re now sharing a taxi. It’s a 110km taxi ride, but with four people in the taxi, it’s cheaper than the bus, at 25 Ringit per person, or about 40 NOK. I am now at GMT +8 instead of GMT +7, so it’s getting kinda late. I’m guessing we’ll be in Kuala Besut around 11pm, so I hope there are open guesthouses! The first boat to Perhentians leaves at 8am tomorrow morning, and I don’t want to spend the night on the pier… 😛 It’s also been raining  all afternoon and evening, so it’s very wet, but it’s also a bit cooler and refreshing. I definately won’t need any aircon. The last few nights I’ve actually woken up early in the morning and I’ve had to turn off the fan! I suspect I will have to get heated blankets and hot water bottles for my bed when I eventually return to Norway…

July 7
We arrived at 11pm like I thought, and when we’d checked into a guest house, had dinner and gone to bed, it was half past midnight. I got up before 7 to take the first boat out to the Perhentians, and had a gorgeous trip out on a little speedboat, with the sun just up over the islands. Dean turned out to have taken his DM licence on the Perhentians a year ago, and I think I want to use the same outfit. 🙂 It’s on Long Beach on the smaller Perhentian, and it’s called Sunlight. I’m staying at the Moonlight Chalets, which cooperates with the Sunlight Divers. I spoke to the owner of Sunlight today, at the Coral Bay, opposite side of the island from Long Beach, and she said I just had to tell her when I was ready to start. I’m spending some time with the instructors and divemasters here, and I’m going to do a couple of fun dives tomorrow, and if nothing extreme happens to put me off the course or the people, I’ll be spending at least the next six weeks here on the Perhentians! 😀 I also might work here after.

PS: My foot is healing nicely.